John the Baptist is a towering figure in the history of our salvation. His importance is amply attested by all four Gospels and also the Acts of the Apostles. It is difficult to imagine the development of Jesus’ earthly history without John’s presence and ministry from the very beginning. John’s intimate involvement in Jesus’ life and destiny, and the significance of John’s ardent devotion to his slightly younger cousin (who also happened to be the Son of God), are perhaps the outstanding instance of how Jesus brought us salvation by meshing his divine life inextricably with our human existence. How I would love to allow my own destiny to become as totally bound up with that of Jesus as was John the Baptist’s! Is not this an excellent definition of “sanctity”: for one’s life to be wholly intertwined with Christ’s and lost with his in God? So closely united was John’s earthly life to Jesus’ work of sanctification that he is the only saint besides the Mother of God whose biological birth into this world the Church celebrates as a resplendent work of nature and grace, inseparably, and as a turning point in salvation history. So essential is John’s role in manifesting the presence of the Incarnate Word to the world that his apprenticeship as a prophet and evangelist begins already in his mother’s womb, and this baby’s first (wordless) sermon consists in a mighty leap of joy at sensing the approach of God’s Holy One.
As we go about our daily activities of prayer, lectio divina, work and fraternal relations, may we like John learn how to leap instinctively with joy at the approach of Jesus. If this becomes a blessed habit, we will then be allowing one another, and the whole world, to feel the presence in our midst of the One who alone brings us peace and lasting unity and evergreen freshness of life. The heart of the Baptist’s vocation coincides precisely with our own vocation as monks. In a moving self-portrait John says: “He who has the bride is the Bridegroom; the friend of the Bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the Bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.” These are clearly the words of one who is on fire with love and who wants to make all others fall in love with the same Beloved.
Reflection by Father Simeon.